Thursday, September 1, 2011

"Only Child" Time

A few years back before we had Ambrose P was, obviously, an only child. Granted he was born a 3rd child then joined a family where he was one of many, then went to an orphanage where he was one of 39 in a small trailer sized home, but you get the point. I spent A LOT of one on one time with him, especially since we had no other children and preschool hadn't even crossed our mind. In fact, I was so adamant that I wanted to homeschool that I got angry when someone even mentioned such a thing as preschool and suggested it had benefits. And public school? Right out. Seriously, right out. My kid was staying with me.

We spent whole days at the kid's museum with a packed lunch, had our every waking moment planned around his sleeping/eating/pottying schedule, and made him the absolute center of our universe.

I would be lying if I said I never got frustrated. In fact, I was frequently bored and sometimes even angry. Yes, I had wanted this life and yes I'd do everything in my power to make it work, but come on! Up and out the door by 7am most days? Spending up to 7 hours straight at the kids museum up to 5 days a week? Spending hour after hour after incredibly tedious hour playing the same games over and over again?

Yes, I loved him and yes I wanted to be there for all the really important things and even the really mundane things, and more often than not I truly loved our time together. But sometimes it just stunk.

Having to amuse one child on his own without a sibling, and constantly being asked if he was my "only", really made me feel ill. I have two older siblings that I wasn't raised with and whom I loved though I rarely saw them. I was raised as an only child really and when I think back to my childhood two things always spring to mind: total silence as I played quietly by myself in my room every day, and all of the one on one interaction with my mother, which I loved but my goodness would I have loved it with a sibling closer in age to me!

We were so happy to finally make P a brother through Ambrose's adoption, happy that he'd have that close sibling relationship and that we'd now have two little boys to occupy ourselves with.

Admittedly, though, that last day alone with just Paxton... and our last Friday night "date" just the two of us while Nik was out... yeah, that was hard, incredibly and tear jerkingly hard. I was so excited about our new addition and yet... P wasn't an only child anymore. And suddenly all that time, all that precious, precious one-on-one time... it was gone.

Ambrose came home and P was aaaawesome. Oh, he was angry at me, and tantruming, and waking up early, but he loved Ambrose with every fiber of his being, and still does. Shortly after P started preschool upon a counselor's recommendation, meaning that in just 3 month's time I went from seeing Paxton all day every day, to only having afternoons with him after nap, and even then I always had to attend to Ambrose first. Paxton didn't seem to mind all too much, he got a lot more alone time with Nik which he hadn't really had before then, and it actually seemed to do him good.

With P in preschool suddenly Ambrose was my "only child" for much of the day. It was... odd. My one-on-one child had been a 4 year old, but now I was one-on-one with an infant. It was a lot of getting used too!

At the beginning of Summer I have to admit I was a little sad, again. I was losing my one-on-one time with Ambrose, having to find activities that would fit both brother's needs. This meant not attending about a zilliion baby/toddler activities because P would be too big, and instead bringing A to things that were "too old" for him and helping him safely amuse himself, as well as finding middle grounds.

Yesterday was my first alone time with P in a long time, and it was grand, seriously. I think I'll have to ask Nik to let me "borrow" my son a couple times a month so we can do that again!

And today... was my first real, full day alone with Ambrose.

I took him to Triangle Town Center.

I used to be there every day with P when he was newly home, meaning just about Ambrose's age, size and development.

Ambrose did just about everything P would do: try to open the locked stores, run to see the fountain, ask for cookies from the shop, etc. And the playground... P and I were there just about every morning, for a couple of hours, just the two of us alone on a padded playground. Today it was me and Ambrose, us sliding down the same slides together and hiding in the same tunnels together.

I have my only child time again, and it's beginning to feel just like it did the first time. We're able to do the same things and he's at the same level.

Only this time... we can communicate. And he's attached. And we have other mom friends we can meet. And I know how to amuse him. And he's physically healthy. And I'm not worried about potty training or not eating enough or getting his clothes dirty. And I actually know what I'm doing and what to expect from a toddler.

And I don't have him two mornings a week.

And I don't have him when I drop him off at the gym.

And I don't have him when I drop him off at church.

And he doesn't sleep on my chest for nap like P did as a toddler.

And I'm not planning to homeschool him.

And I now know what it's like to make a child an older sibling.

This time... I know, truly know, how incredibly precious and utterly limited our "only child" time is.

Those moments spent sitting on the floor staring into his big brown eyes, singing with him the same song over and over, playing with child's toys... it's so valuable, so priceless.

Those moments he loses control and yells or hits or throws himself down... it's only temporary, it's just frustration, it's not hatred, it's not personal.

Those moments he asks for a small candy or to go hug a stuffed animal, using the best enunciation he can muster... treasure it, reward it, love it.

Some day, sooner than I think, it will all be over. Someday I'll be sitting here staring at the clock as the minutes slowly click down, signaling the end of his first day of Kindergarten.

Just like I'm doing with my first "only child" right this second....

(11 minutes until I need to put Ambrose in the stroller and head off to pick up my sweet little boy, who has been gone too long...)

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